Silent Stan: sports nut with a record of success
American Stan Kroenke, the new Arsenal owner, has seen instant results at all his other clubs
Sport defines Stan Kroenke. His full name, Enos Stanley, is a homage to baseball players in the 1940s. Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial both played in the famous St Louis Cardinals team that won the World Series in 1942, 1942 and 1946. Kroenke was born in Columbia, Missouri in 1947, son of a businessman and baseball devotee. "I've always had an affinity for sports," he recalled. "Early on I loved to listen on the radio to the Cardinals with my grandfather."
Kroenke, who yesterday spent £240m on Arsenal shares, thereby taking his stake in the club to 62 per cent, was a talented young sportsman growing up in Benton County, once famously scoring 33 points in a high-school basketball game, a record that stood for over ten years.
"At their best, competitive sports teach many valuable lessons about life," he once said. His brightest talents, though, lay elsewhere. He attended the University of Missouri before embarking on the career in retail and real estate which has so far delivered him a fortune of over $2bn and the ownership of a set of professional sports clubs.
Aside from Arsenal, Kroenke owns four significant American teams. In his native Missouri he owns the NFL side St Louis Rams. In his new base in Colorado he has a more expansive empire, including the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL and Colorado Rapids of the MLS. At all of these clubs, he has shown a detailed involvement, and a commitment to success that has often extended to a significant personal outlay.
His first meaningful foray into professional sport was in 1995. He was one of a number of people who convinced the failing Los Angeles Rams to move to St Louis, and bought a 40 per cent minority stake in the club. It was a triumph of vision and was fully rewarded within five years. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV in January 2000, beating the Tennessee Titans 23-16. It was their first ever Super Bowl win.
Emboldened by the success of the Rams, whom he bought in their entirety last August, Kroenke then moved into the sports teams of Denver, Colorado. In July 2000 he invested $450m in both the Avalanche, the Nuggets and the Pepsi Center, which houses both of them. The impact of the Kroenke ownership for the Avalanche was even swifter than it was for the Rams. They won the 2001 Stanley Cup, only the second in their history, as they beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3. With the Nuggets, Kroenke demonstrated his commitment to heavy spending on recruitment, paying for Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Unlike the other teams in the Kroenke stable, they have won nothing under the ownership of Kroenke Sports Enterprises.
Between the Nuggets and the Avalanche, Kroenke has shown the extent of control he prefers at his teams. He owns their stadium, the Pepsi Center, and in 2004 he launched Altitude, a television network which broadcasts their games as well as those of the Colorado Rapids.
It was 2004 when Kroenke purchased the MLS side, and he oversaw the construction and move to Dick's Sporting Goods Park, a new stadium in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids have flourished in recent years and in 2010 they won the MLS Cup for the first time.
At all of these clubs, Kroenke's commitment to detail was fierce. Mark Warkentien, the Nuggets' vice president, said of his work: "We'll want to get a guy in for a 10-day contract, and Stan will want to know who he is, where he's from, what's his style of play and how we think the player will fit with the team."
In many ways, "Silent Stan" resembles his new manager, Arsène Wenger. They share a strong sense of privacy, a certain bookishness and a commitment to physical fitness that would shame some of their players. As business partner Charles Banks said: "He is one of the most intellectually curious people you'll come across. It's not micro-managing; it's micro-comprehension."
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